Nutrition

U.S. Dietary Panel Advocates Sweetened Drink Tax, More Labeling, and Not Adding Cream & Sugar to Your Coffee, Gosh Darnit

"Care should be taken to minimize the amount of calories from added sugars and high-fat dairy or dairy substitutes added to coffee."

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howzey/Flickr

Today the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) submitted new recommendations for regulating and promoting particular foods, drinks, and nutrients. This is the first update since 2010, and the first in a long time to drop the recommendation against dietary cholesterol. But don't worry, there are still plenty of paternalistic and scientifically-questionable guidelines to go around.

Committee member and Tufts University nutrition profressor Alice Lichtenstein told Bloomberg: "We put much more of an emphasis on healthy dietary patterns as opposed to individual components of the diet. When we focus on individual components of the diet, whether it be carbs or fat, we usually end up going astray."

It's true that this report emphasizes overall dietary patterns more than particular food groups or nutrients—so far, so good. But the broadminded approach extends a little too far; now everything from environmental sustainability to helping immigrants adjust to a new food culture falls under the DGAC's purview. And the committee hasn't really abandoned its tendency to single out specific nutrients as special diet dangers, suggesting that drinks with added sugars are a good candidate for targeted taxation:

Higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes may encourage consumers to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Using the revenues from the higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes for nutrition health promotion efforts or to subsidize fruits and vegetables could have public health benefits.

DGAC also offers other random beverage tips, such as: "energy drinks with high levels of caffeine and alcoholic beverages should not be consumed together, either mixed together or consumed at the same sitting." And while "moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern … it should be noted that coffee as it is normally consumed can contain added calories from cream, milk, and added sugars. Care should be taken to minimize the amount of calories from added sugars and high-fat dairy or dairy substitutes added to coffee."

But the committee isn't content just to give people coffee tips: to promote a diet low in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars, "policies and programs at local, state, and national levels in both the private and public sector are necessary … Similarly, the Committee supports efforts in labeling and other campaigns to increase consumer awareness and understanding of sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars in foods and beverages." 

And despite dropping its recommendation against the cholesterol, the committee is still clinging to its stance on low-sodium diets. "For sodium, emphasis should be placed on expanding industry efforts to reduce the sodium content of foods and helping consumers understand how to flavor unsalted foods with spices and herbs," says the report. 

Members of the nonpartisan advisory committee are chosen by the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. Their updated recs are meant to inform the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which comes out later this year. The report—first published in 1980—informs all manners of federal food policy, including public assistance programs and school lunch requirements.

The advisory committee's new recommendations are open for public comment until March 24, 2015; you can view the whole report here.

In addition to recommending particularly dietary patterns based on their ability to promote health, the report for the first time notes the advantages of "sustainable diets":

The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet. This pattern of eating can be achieved through a variety of dietary patterns, including the Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern, and the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern.

Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns. This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns. Of note is that no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.

In terms of "individual diet and physical activity behavior change," the committee calls for "stronger Federal policies to help prevent household food insecurity and "advices food and nutrition assistance programs "take into account the risk that immigrants have of giving up their healthier dietary habits soon after arriving in the United States." It also suggests federal "efforts to provide all individuals living in the United States with the environments, knowledge, and tools needed to implement effective individual- or family-level behavioral change strategies to improve the quality of their diets and reduce sedentary behaviors. These goals will require changes at all levels of the social-ecological model through coordinated efforts among health care and social and food systems from the national to the local level."

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  1. I think we need an association of writers to dispatch and published eloquent “fuck off, who asked you?” letters to governmental busybody organizations.

    -jcr

  2. And despite dropping its recommendation against the cholesterol, the committee is still clinging to its stance on low-sodium diets.

    And yet we’re the anti-science troglodytes all of a sudden…

  3. Yeah but this time the science is right.

  4. Care should be taken to minimize the amount of calories from added sugars and high-fat dairy or dairy substitutes added to coffee.

    Does semen count as a dairy substitute? Asking for a friend.

  5. Members of the nonpartisan advisory committee are chosen by the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture.

    “Hey, Larry, want a cushy government job? Gimme your resume and I’ll drop a good word for ya!”

  6. The advisory committee’s new recommendations are open for public comment until March 24, 2015

    Here’s mine: Fuck off, food slavers.

  7. Using the revenues from the higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes for nutrition health promotion efforts

    Uh huh, the nutrition health promotion effort lockbox. Sure.

    1. Remember when sates used cigarette taxes to pay for health initiatives in AZ or NM and then people actually quit smoking and revenues began falling and next thing you know those programs were underfunded and money to pay from them had to come from somewhere.

      It seems like replicating this with sugar drinks would be folly.

      1. Only if you learn from history.

        1. I thought that was the point of history, is that pass? now?

  8. Taxes, is there anything you can’t do?

  9. As a taxpayer, I have a distinct feeling of buyer’s remorse here. Why did I pay for this again?

  10. It also suggests federal “efforts to provide all individuals living in the United States with the environments, knowledge, and tools needed to implement effective individual- or family-level behavioral change strategies to improve the quality of their diets and reduce sedentary behaviors. These goals will require changes at all levels of the social-ecological model through coordinated efforts among health care and social and food systems from the national to the local level.”

    “‘Smith!’ screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. ‘6079 Smith W.! Yes, YOU! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! THAT’S better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.”

    1. I am old enough to remember a time when I thought that quote absurd, something that could never happen. Orwell just missed the date by a few decades.

  11. minimize the amount of calories

    *barf*

    That’s the number of calories, you ignorant government hack!

  12. “But don’t worry, there are still plenty of paternalistic and scientifically-questionable guidelines to go around.”

    For the millionth time, there isn’t anything scientific about imposing your qualitative judgements on other people.

    It doesn’t even matter if their tax really does have the impact they say: using the coercive power of government to impose your qualitative preferences on other people is not and cannot be science.

    This is political advocacy masquerading as “science”.

    Watch the utilitarian experts try to impose their qualitative judgements on us, call it science, and then wonder why so many “dumb” people are dubious of their phony “science”.

    Somebody tell me how to falsify their observation that certain benefits to me outweigh the costs to me, and once you’ve done that, scientifically prove that strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate chip.

  13. You know how people post YouTube videos of Hitler movies with the voice track redone? Well people shouud due that with movies depicting the founding fathers hammering out the bill of rights.

    “Yes, mister Jefferson, while the people do have a right to moderate coffee consumption in that it can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern … it should be noted that coffee as it is normally consumed can contain added calories from cream, milk, and added sugars. Care should be taken to minimize the amount of calories from added sugars and high-fat dairy or dairy substitutes added to coffee.”

    1. Yes, but “1776” doesn’t have a screaming madman like “Downfall”. Screaming madmen get the web hits.

  14. “PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN. Coffee is for closers, only.”

  15. “Scientifically prove that strawberry ice cream [tastes] better than chocolate chip.”

    P.S.

    The only thing that might be worse than government bureaucrats claiming that science has proven that strawberry is better is skeptics insisting that the problem with the government’s analysis of strawberry is that their data is wrong.

    …when the real problem with a scientific analysis of whether strawberry ice cream tastes better than chocolate chip is that–it isn’t a scientific question.

    How do they know how much the benefits of eating like shit matter to me?

    What if I care more about starving the government of tax revenue than I do about somebody else’s health?

    Where do our qualitative preferences show up on their spreadsheet?

    I know our preferences show up in the market, and they must know it, too. They must realize how many different flavors of sugar water there are out there–and what that means.

    And, no, it doesn’t mean that average people are stupid and don’t know about science. It’s because a lot of people care more about sugar water than they do about their health. It means that we don’t need government bureaucrats or their “science” to tell us what we like.

    Incidentally, I ride a motorcycle because the qualitative benefits are more important to me than the risks to my health. And who can falsify that qualitative preference with science? …but they’ll come after my bike someday. And they’ll do it in the name of saving stupid people like me with science.

  16. low-fat is healthy – derpity derp

    1. It doesn’t matter if it is!

      Some people care more about eating delicious fat than they do about their health.

      There’s like 100 million of them in the Midwest alone!

      How can other people’s qualitative preferences be scientifically falsified?

    2. As a member of the Committee for the Prevention of Vice and the Preservation of Virtue, I’m going to have to ask you to put a burkha on your coffee.

  17. Children’s ice cream, Mandrake!!

  18. Here’s an idea… rather than taxing products with high sugar content, simply remove the sugar industry subsidies and let the prices rise on their own.

    1. Racist!

    2. Here’s an idea… rather than taxing products with high sugar content, simply remove the sugar industry subsidies and let the prices rise on their own.

      [Stands up, raises hand, waves arms] Because evil corporations instead of virtuous governments would get the added revenue!

  19. DGAC also offers other random beverage tips, such as: “energy drinks with high levels of caffeine and alcoholic beverages should not be consumed together, either mixed together or consumed at the same sitting.” And why the fuck not? And while “moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern … it should be noted that coffee as it is normally consumed can contain added calories from cream, milk, and added sugars. Note away, fuckwads, just stay outta my kitchen. Care should be taken to minimize the amount of calories from added sugars and high-fat dairy or dairy substitutes added to coffee.” Care should be taken not to be busybody shitheads.

    Good God, I fucking hate these fucking stupid nannystate fuckers.

  20. I am enjoying delicious schadenfreude. I have been ignoring the government’s dietary guidelines my whole life–I have NEVER given up my butter, eggs, salt and bacon– while suffering the oh so smarmy condemnation of my fat and diabetic friends and family who did. Who’s still skinny and healthy now, bitches?

  21. How to Eliminate Sugar from Your Diet

    Sugar can lead to many diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. So it’s definitely important to watch what you eat when it comes to sugar

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